Tánaiste calls on Israel to 'exercise restraint' with flotilla


THE TÁNAISTE and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore has urged Israel to exercise restraint in relation to the forthcoming flotilla to Gaza, which will include an Irish ship.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN yesterday described the flotilla, which aims to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, as a “provocation” and said Israel was determined to stop it.

Twenty-five passengers and crew are to set sail on the Irish-owned vessel MV Saoirse this weekend to join the international flotilla, which will comprise 10 ships.

The Irish participants include former Fianna Fáil TD Chris Andrews, Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy, Derry Sinn Féin councillor Gerry MacLochlain, Siptu trade union official Mags O’Brien and former Irish rugby international Trevor Hogan.

Speaking after he met Israel’s ambassador to Ireland, Boaz Modai, yesterday, Mr Gilmore stressed the importance of avoiding a repetition of what he described as the “completely unacceptable and unjustified” violence that marked last year’s flotilla.

Nine activists were killed when Israeli commandos stormed the flotilla.

“I have made it clear that I cannot advise any Irish national to participate in a venture which potentially brings them into harm’s way through seeking to break a naval blockade,” Mr Gilmore said. “I emphasised, however, to the ambassador that if the flotilla does sail next week, then Israel must exercise all possible restraint and avoid any use of military force if attempting to uphold their naval blockade.

“In particular, I would expect that any interception of ships is conducted in a peaceful manner and does not endanger the safety of our citizens or other participants.”

The Tánaiste reiterated the Government’s view that the Gaza blockade was “unjust and counterproductive”. He noted that Ireland and the EU had repeatedly urged Israel to open up the border crossings into Gaza.

“Positive steps in this direction by Israel, building on the announced intention earlier this week to allow [the United Nations Relief and Works Agency] bring in $100 million of urgently needed reconstruction materials which I welcome and hope is now quickly implemented, would obviate any need for humanitarian-motivated flotillas of this kind to be mounted,” Mr Gilmore added.